Ashes: England avoid whitewash in dramatic fourth test after brave batting performance

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·5-min read
Ashes: England avoid whitewash in dramatic fourth test after brave batting performance
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  • James Anderson
    English cricketer, born 1982
  • Ben Stokes
    Ben Stokes
    Cricketer (born 1991)
  • Joe Root
    Joe Root
    English cricketer (born 1990)

England have been drubbed in Australia, but there will be no whitewash this time.

They avoided going 4-0 down after four in the most dramatic fashion, batting through the final day at Sydney nine wickets down, with last man James Anderson seeing off six balls to secure the draw.

With the fading light meaning spin had to be bowled from both ends, Steve Smith dismissed Jack Leach – who had battled hard for 34 balls – with 12 balls remaining. That brought Anderson to the crease to join Stuart Broad. Broad took Nathan Lyon’s, leaving Anderson to negotiate Smith’s final over of the match. He did so with no major alarms, and offered Australia’s 10 close catchers a handshake.

For Anderson, there would have been mixed memories. Uncomfortable ones from 2014, when he was dismissed off the final ball as England lost to Sri Lanka. But happy thoughts, looking back.

While Australia might reflect that they left their fourth day declaration a little late, batting on even after Usman Khawaja reached his second century of the match. Still, England exceeded all expectations, batting through the final day to draw a Test for the first time since 2013 in Auckland.

England, well beaten but perhaps unbowed, fought valiantly, with their reaction to each of the nine dismissals telling the story.

Joe Root walked off at Marnus Labuschagne’s pace, having been caught behind off Scott Boland again. Ben Stokes, having been caught at slip off Lyon, threw his arms high in the air and his head up, before remembering the pain his side strain is causing him. Mark Wood, having become the second lbw victim of a quite incredible Pat Cummins over, knelt with his nose to the turf. His left foot might have become England’s fourth injury worry for Hobart.

England had called for fight, and they did show it this week, having taken the game deep despite Australia being in a position so powerful that they declared twice, while at lunch on day three the tourists 36 for four and went 70 balls without scoring a run.

The fight chiefly came from Stokes, who made his second fifty of the match despite a side strain, and Jonny Bairstow, who followed his 113 with a 105-ball 41 despite a nasty thumb injury. When he became the eighth wicket to fall, caught at silly point off Boland, 64 balls remained and all hope felt lost. But there was a sense of this being a team effort; each of the top seven was at crease for a minimum of 29 balls. The last three batters faced 75 between then.

England arrived having to bat 98 overs to save the game, and made it to within **. Rain played its part, arriving – with no great force – towards the end of the lunch break and sticking around for an hour. That cost the game seven overs.

By then England had lost three wickets. The first two were faintly inevitable, with Haseeb Hameed caught behind off Scott Boland, and Dawid Malan bowled by Lyon.

Both batters look frazzled. Hameed made nine, one below his average for the series, and extending his run of successive single figure scores to six. He had already been badly dropped by Alex Carey on nine, but was offering a simpler chance a few minutes later.

Malan started the series so brightly, with 82 and 80 in the first two Tests. Now, he looks like a man in need of a break, having been on tour since September, away from a heavily pregnant wife, having been caught poking to legslip in the first innings.

It was Zak Crawley providing the positives. When he was dismissed by his 100th ball for 77, lbw to an excellent yorker from Cameron Green, England had just 96 runs on the board. He had dominated the scoring, and looked dominant at the crease, too, flaying pull shots in front of square, and timing the ball crisply. The dismissal was the first mistake he has made, and a reminder why England are investing heavily in Crawley. They should continue to.

Root and Stokes, the vital partnership, made it to lunch, but not without a scare. On 16, Stokes was badly dropped at short leg by Marcus Harris off Cummins. With the rain adjusting the equation, England had 56 overs to survive, 22 of them against the new ball.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Neither man would make it there. Root has now been dismissed by Boland three times since he last scored a run off him, and all eight of his dismissals this series have come caught in the cordon. Boland’s introduction in Melbourne has been stunning on almost every level, but his ability to exploit the doubt around one of the few blind spots in Root’s game has been another nail in England’s coffin.

Stokes, playing through the pain, had no such concerns, but the introduction of Lyon was always likely to trouble him. Despite a couple of fluent strokes, extra bounce saw him caught in two minds, then caught at slip.

Jos Buttler, dosed up to the eyeballs because of a series ending finger injury, stuck around briefly, but fell to the new ball, as Cummins found a snorter that dismissed him lbw on review. Two balls later, Wood got an even nastier one.

With 17 overs to go, it was over to Bairstow and the tail. They made it – just.

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